Intelsat 30/DLA-1 Flight Mate: Check!

By Todd Schilb, Program Manager, Space Systems Acquisition

Fourth in a series from Intelsat team members overseeing the launch of Intelsat 30, which is hosting the DLA-1 payload for DirecTV Latin America.

We are now less than two weeks from the 16 October launch and are in the beginning stages of getting the booster ready to move to the launch pad for launch day.

As for Intelsat 30, now that Intelsat and SSL teams have completed standalone testing and fueling of the satellite, the next major phase of the launch campaign begins. This is the “combined operations” phase during which the integration of the satellite with the launch vehicle takes center stage.

The first operation to occur in this process is called the “flight mate” to the adaptor. The adaptor is the satellite interface to the booster; it includes the mechanical and electrical connections to the rocket. The adaptor has a sophisticated clamp band release system with springs that will send the satellite on its way after the upper stage of the booster has put it into the correct orbit for transfer to its final orbital position. We call this event “spacecraft separation” which you may recognize and will hear during the launch broadcast. When we hear “we have successful spacecraft separation” on launch day, we know the Ariane 5 has done its job and it is up to the spacecraft to continue the mission. So we can say that the last launch event begins with the first joint operation, which is “flight mate.”

In this picture we can see the Arianespace team and the SSL team lowering Intelsat 30 onto the flight adaptor. This is considered a hazardous operation as the spacecraft is fully loaded with toxic, hypergolic propellants, and so each team member was specially selected to perform the key functions for this operation. I am happy to report that the operation was completed flawlessly, and the spacecraft is safely secured to the flight adaptor.

The next blog installment will include the transfer to the SYLDA (the Système de Lancement Double Ariane structure) and fairing encapsulation.

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